Chapter eight: In which addictive substances are unearthed

"It's not wrong! Anyone can dream! Radio still dreams!" Radio cried to Corp, who sat slumped at the side of the platform.

"Frac," said Frac, glowering at Radio before returning to Corp, "does not like the idea of independent thought."

Radio clutched at her flowers again.

Corp crossed his arms and shot a quizzical look at Sesshy. "What stops everyone from rebelling against Frac simultaneously? If she executes everyone, she has no subjects to rule and therefore no power."

"Well for one thing," said Sesshy. "That would require the use of the afore mentioned - and outlawed - independent thought. So nyer."

"And why would we want to rebel against Frac?" asked someone from the audience. "As dictators go, she's pretty laid back..."

There was a lengthy pause.

"Execution of Beatles aside," the person continued.

"Well she did give Beatles her head back. Most dictators wouldn't do that," Radio said, grinning.

Beatles laughed... and then winced as the new skin caught.

The silence that had settled before returned, only this time it seemed as if it was there to stay. The silence kicked up its feet and leaned backwards with the paper, completely at ease and willing to wait.

"So," Beatles said, having endured the lack of sound for long enough. "What now?"

"What do you mean 'what now'?" asked Sesshy.

"What do you mean, what do I mean? I mean, what should we do now? Now that everything's sorted and such."

"Oh, you think everything's sorted, little Miss Blasphemer?!"

"Sorry, Frac," Beatles drawled.

"Because it isn't! It isn't!"

Sesshy looked around. "Hey, where'd Corp go?"

"Say what? He's gone? No! I wanted to shout at him some more!"

"It's okay, Frac. Beatles is still here."

"Beatles! Aha!"

"Sesshy, I hate you. You know that?"

"Yes, yes I do."

"Silence, blasphemer!"

"I'm not the blasphemer, she is!"

"Well then, silence to the both of you! Haha!"

The crowd watched the bickering trio with expressions of vague amusement. To Noob, it seemed that the overall excitement was over. He pushed away from the doorway and trudged back inside.

It was a very long way down; from the window in the Resources Tower Noob could see almost the entire grounds of the Review Game mansion. He watched as various members detached themselves from the execution crowd and generally went about their business. On the street outside the mansion he spotted the figure of Lime arguing with her Lime-Cat, who was refusing to budge from his spot on the dustbin, and laughed. The sound echoed across the empty space and Lime looked up sharply, squinting against the glare.

To Noob's relief, she only waved.

To Noob's confusion, she then began to walk in the opposite direction... away from the Review Game! None of the people surrounding Lime seemed to notice her strange actions, so Noob decided there and then to get to the bottom of this. She wasn't walking that fast, after all, what with the Lime-Cat stopping every few seconds to sniff at various innocent objects.

"Lime, hey! Wait up!"

On the way down the street, Lime explained that in the RG, people came and went. Sometimes there were things they needed to do in RL—

"RL?" Noob frowned at the phrase. "What's that?"

Lime gave him a Look. "Ha. Funny. Don't interrupt me midsentence, will you?"

Noob shut his mouth and let Lime continue.

—things they needed to do in RL; sometimes they split off and made their own houses, their own organisations... their own forums.

"Kylie was the first, to start her own organisation. Dialogue Play, she called it," Lime explained. "The general idea was that anyone could come, pick a genre and create a character. The person would then be that character whenever they are in designated areas of the house. Or something like that. I think. I was never really much interested in it, to be honest. You'd be better off asking Radio, Zion Sesshy, Bubbles or Kylie herself, considering they're the moderators of the place."

"Moderators?"

"Yeah," Lime said. "They watch over things in the house, make sure everything is running as it should. Like Frac and Mini."

Noob nodded thoughtfully.

The pair walked onwards. They passed a house bearing the number three and a sign that said 'Dialogue Play'. Below it, in dribbling marker pen, someone has scrawled the words 'Like Dungeons and Dragons only we know we're cool!'. Lime shook her head and chuckled. Noob would have laughed as well, but the Lime-Cat had just decided his head would be a wonderful place to sleep, and he was momentarily distracted.

"Where are we going, then?" Noob asked. The cat gave up his slumberous attack and clawed its way up Lime's leg to rest in her arms.

"We," Lime said, "are heading to a little place I know. I think you might like it. You seem to enjoy exploring."

Time passed. They walked past house number four. "What's this place called?"

"BWB."

Noob read the sign on the door. Number eight. "Break Writer's Block?"

Lime nodded.

Noob peered through the doorway and into the shady gloom. There was a strangely familiar smell permeating from the dark insides of this building; he'd smelt that smell before, he was sure of it. On Beatles and on Karas; even Sesshy once.

This was where it came from?

Noob followed Lime down the twisting corridors until they reached a door labelled with three simple letters: TBT.

Sounds like a disease, Noob thought.

The darkened room—could these people not afford proper lighting?—was host to a ring of figures, all rocking back and forth, circling what looked to be a bong of sorts. Occasionally one of the figures leant forward, took a puff and uttered nonsensical gibberish before leaning back. The expression on said figure's face would then either be one of pride or failure.

Noob raised an eyebrow. Were they doing drugs?

Lime patted him on the shoulder and beamed into the room. "I'm very proud of all this, y'know. Secret recipe. Me, Karas and Net came up with it. Took a while to perfect, though. Earlier batches were a bit... well..." Lime searched for the right word, "unstable."

"Unstable?"

Lime nodded. Noob looked like he needed proof. Raising a hand, Lime called out, "Beatles, come over here?"

How had Beatles gotten here so quickly? Noob frowned. Lime caught his befuddled expression.

"You walk slow," she offered by way of explanation. Noob scowled at her and her sudden, serene grin.

One of the circle people stood. Beatles, the brown haired executee, meandered her way across the room, wobbling and tottering till she drew level with Noob. Beatles reeked of Lime's so-called-drug and Noob found himself bewildered in the face of her face.

Beatles giggled, then turned her doped-up attention to Lime.

A little cautious, as Lime knew what TBT could do, she said, "Beatles?"

"Y-y-yeah, Lime rhyme time?"

"How are you today?"

"Today? I'm ray play yay say hey, but how are you?"

Lime smiled. Obviously there was still some sense in Beatles's addled brain. "I'm good. This is Noob."

"—Noob tube lube, bwahaha. Funny plunnies oh yes indeedy-doo."

Noob leaned to his left. "Why is her voice like that?" he whispered to Lime.

"It's the proximity to TBT. It does strange things to you once you're addicted, and poor Beatles got the brunt of the first batches. Along with me and Karas, of course."

"—course sauce morse—" said Beatles.

"She's still doing it!"

"—it bit fit—"

"Make her stop!" Noob cried.

"—make her stop, but why would I? Prithee I pray wherefore art mine doodlies, rawrsnarkyrawrZOMGbubbles—"

"Oh, she's gone again," said Lime. "Beatles, hun? You wanna go back to the circle?"

Beatles looked at them through dilated pupils. "Maybe," she mumbled.

A kindly hand laid itself on Beatles' shoulder and she was led away. Noob looked at Lime's contented smile in horror.

"That's what your drug does to people?!"

"Hey, she wasn't complaining at the time!"

Noob fixed Lime with a withering stare. "Was she conscious at the time?"

Lime paused. "Define conscious," she challenged.

The circle expanded to allow Noob entry. Lime stood back, her arms folded; proud of her peer-pressuring efforts. It took a special someone to apply peer-pressure whilst on one's own. The feline grin on Lime's face grew more and more as she took in Noob's determined yet determinably nervous movements.

"So how does this work?" Noob, though not entirely aware, clutched tight at the cloth of his sleeve as if it could offer some measure of comfort. Why again was he participating in this madness?

"It's a competition of sorts," Karas explained, arranging herself on the pre-arranged cushions. "You breathe through this." She indicated the stem of the glittering water pipe. "And the rest is..." For once, words failed her. "Err," she said. "Umm."

"The game?" offered the boy who had been introduced to Noob as Euro.

"Damnit!" several others in the ring suddenly said. Noob stared bewildered at their scowling faces.

Beatles saw his confusion and turned on him. "Noob doesn't know about the game?" she asked.

Noob decided to ignore the fact that she seemed to be talking to him in third person.

"We're not getting into all of that now," Zion said, dismissing Noob's querulous queries with a flourish. "Here and now we are doing this!" He waved a hand at the bong.

And so the circle settled down to play.

"To begin," said Karas, "we shall need a new phrase... Bagsie!"

There were several mutters of dissent from those slow off the mark (though most are in comparison to Karas and her high speed shenanigans) but the group settled down soon enough, preparing themselves for the upcoming game.

Inhaling deeply from the glass vessel, Karas intoned, "What is a bag if not a gag for objects within to keep them from without?"

The next in the circle, Sheriff, Noob recalled the name, leant forward. "What is a bag if not a gag for objects within to keep them from without? Why I say tis a lag to gag such objects wherefore once upon a time within and without were one."

Beatles's turn. The manic grin returned as she inhaled the heady smoke. "My right, and currently left, honourable friend makes a valid point. 'What is a bag if not a gag for objects within to keep them from without? Why I say tis a lag to gag such objects wherefore once upon a time within and without were one.' But if within and without were once one where does two lie? Lie it in the bag to be plied and dragged as one once was?"

The circle turned their intoxicated eyes to Zion. The brown haired boy looked his opponents up and down, measuring their threat. Then he took a deep breath. "My right, and currently left, honourable friend makes a valid point. 'What is a bag if not a gag for objects within to keep them from without? Why I say tis a lag to gag such objects wherefore once upon a time within and without were one.' But if within and without were once one where does two lie? Lie it in the bag to be plied and dragged as one once was? It is clear as beer to me that one and two do too bear great sway in this debate of fates. Such lag for our bag in a gag! Must we mistreat them so? Must we?!"

And now it was Noob's turn. Could he do this? His shaking fingers grasped the glass stem and he inhaled with wild abandon.

Someone whistled: a noise of appreciation.

The sound fled Noob's mind upon arrival. Madness was happening inside his spinning head— sight turned to taste, taste turned to sound, sound turned to custard.

A person behind him said, "Hey, is he alright?" and Noob frowned at that person, wondering why, for the love of Reggy, they were talking in purple. Taking another pull of the potent vapour, he began to speak...

"My right, and currently left, honourable friend makes a valid point. 'What is a bag if not a gag for objects within to keep them from without? Why I say tis a lag to gag such objects wherefore once upon a time within and without were one.' But if within and without were once one where does two lie? Lie it in the bag to be plied and dragged as one once was? It is clear as beer to me that one and two do too bear great sway in this debate of fates. Such lag for our bag in a gag! Must we mistreat them so? Must we?! I say we must! For is in your trust that such a beratement of fate is thrust upon us, we must, oh we must, rise to the occasion! Verily I do declare that one day gags in bags shall live in harmony with one another and within and without shall once and forever and for all be knowm as wherefore! And of the ones and twos I hear you ask? Prithee what of their fate? They shall merge! Thrice shall they merge and thrice they shall emerge! Prithee I do declare three shall be their long awaited, fated fate!"

Noob grinned lopsidedly at them all. Somehow during the mad speech, he had risen to his feet. Those around him did not know whether to applaud or call for help. He beamed at their unsure faces.

Then something seemed to change: the manic smile of doped happiness grew less sublime. To Noob it grew to engulf his face and head and mind so much that it twisted in upon itself and became dark; heavy—

Noob's legs buckled. His strength gave out. With the all grace of a stick insect doing the tango, the latest victim of TBT fell unconscious to the floor.


Author note: I finally finished it! I am actually in shock over here. I mean, it only took me, what, three months? XD

Author note 2: nextchapteristhelastmwahahaenjoy!*runs*